We think that Apple's answer to Microsoft Office - featuring its Pages, Numbers and Keynote offerings - is great. But the fact is that more people use Office than any other suite of tools. Hence many a Mac user will be looking for the latest information about the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac.
Microsoft, like so many other companies, offers a subscription edition of Office - namely Office 365. This version is regularly updated with new features. But not everyone wants to subscribe on a monthly or yearly basis to software.
If you don't need the latest features and functions an old version of Microsoft Word may be good enough. If you happen to work in an area where regular updates might actually cause problems and break essential workflows, Office 365 might be unsuitable. Similarly professional users who don't want to move to the cloud will be looking for an alternative to the cloud based Office solution.
Microsoft seems to recognise this, because even when it released Office 2019 it said that it wouldn't be the last time it would release a perpetual licensed version of Office. The company clarified this again in a blog post back in September 2020 when it revealed its plans to release new perpetual licence version of Office - Office 2021.
In February 2021 Microsoft confirmed these plans again. Announcing two new versions of Office.
First up is Office 2021: this version is for home users and small businesses.
The second version is called Office LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) and is aimed at professional users and business customers.
Office 2021 release date
Office 2021 (including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint) will be released in the second half of 2021. There will be versions for Windows 10 and macOS.
At the end of April 2021 Microsoft released a beta version of the new Office for Mac. More on the new features that have already appeared in the beta below.
Office 2021 price
The price for Office 2021 will be the same as Microsoft Office 2019.
Customers will be able to buy Office 2021 outright - sometimes known as a perpetual licence. This means they will not need to take out an annual subscription to use it. This licence will include five years of support for Office 2021.
Office LTSC must be purchased for each device, but the license does not have to be renewed after purchase.
When sales commence, Microsoft is expected to increase the prices for Office Professional Plus, Office Standard and the associated apps by ten percent. Microsoft is also promising that after Office LTSC there will be another stand-alone version without a subscription.
Office 2021 features
At the end of April 2021 Microsoft released the first beta version of Office 2021 for Mac. This beta version gives us an insight into some of the new features that will be included in the final version.
There are some significant new features, these include:
- Line Focus - designed to reduce distraction when writing text by focusing on a single line at a time.
- XLOOKUP in Excel - which should make it easier to search in Excel documents. You will also be able to record a slide show with narration in PowerPoint.
Other new features coming in Office 2021 include:
- Support for improved dark mode
- Improved accessibility features
- Dynamic arrays
- General improvements in Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint
Apart from the improved dark mode, there aren't expected to be any fundamental changes in the Microsoft Office user interface.
The Skype for Business client app will be available for download separately by Office LTSC users from the Microsoft Download Center. The Microsoft Teams app is also supplied separately.
Both new Office versions will come with OneNote and be available as both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
New Word features
A new feature coming to Microsoft Word in March is likely to also make its way to the 2021 Office.
Word will be able to predict a sentence based on a word you type. This 'Text Predictions' feature has already been introduced to the web-based version of Outlook.
The feature works if the user starts to write a typical phrase or at least a common phrase that the Microsoft program can identify. An example would be: "all that glitters isn't ...". Word would now suggest "gold" because it recognises the phrase "all that glitters isn't gold".
Word displays the suggested word in grey. If the user wants to accept the proposal from Word, they must either press the Tab key or the right arrow key to accept it. To reject the suggestion just press the Escape key.
Will Office 365 continue?
Microsoft will continue to offer the Microsoft 365 cloud solution as the preferred solution alongside Office 2021 and Office LTSC.
We have lots of advice about buying Office for Mac here: Office for Mac buying guide. Also read: How to get free Microsoft Office on iPad and iPhone. and How to get Microsoft word for free on Mac.
Office 2021 specs
Office 2021 will require a Mac with at least 4GB RAM and 10GB of free storage space. It will only available as a 64bit version, and currently supports macOS Big Sur, Catalina and Mojave.
The office suite is optimised for both Intel processors and the M1 chip. Read: Which apps work on M1 Macs.